When you play Magic word association and someone says "(Blank) Command"—or is that more like classic TV game show The Match Game?—either way, when you let someone fill in that blank you get some pretty heavy hitters from the release of Lorwyn. Cards like Cryptic Command, Profane Command, and Primal Command all made an impact in Standard. And Cryptic and Primal still get played even in larger formats.
To be perfectly honest, it is the blue Command that really shines from that cycle. My preview card came in with a note that this was indeed part of a cycle of Commands, all color coordinated with the Elder Dragons in the set. We already saw what Ojutai's Command was, courtesy of Gavin Verhey, which means there was one more blue Command yet to be revealed. Let's take a gander at what Silumgar is ordering you to do in Standard for the next year or so…
Silumgar's Command offers up a tasty selection of options for a control mage, including the spicy duo of countering a Planeswalker (aka a noncreature spell) and destroying a Planeswalker. Five mana is a substantial price to ask for any spell in Standard, but players already cast spells like Jace's Ingenuity in their blue-black control decks so why not a card that actually…you know…does stuff? I roped in someone who is coming off of a very successful tournament experience playing just that type of deck when he won a Standard PPTQ two weekends ago.
Mike Flores has been a long-standing writer for this site—and just about every other major Magic website since the invention of Magic websites. He is also a podcasting partner with me on the Top 8 Magic podcast and with Patrick Chapin on the Top Level Podcast. It was in collaboration with the Hall of Famer that Flores honed in on the Blue-Black Control list that he won his seat at the Regional Qualifier with.
Before diving into where the card might fit into the context of that deck, Flores and I discussed the inevitable comparisons to other Commands that have come before it. While the tendency is to look at Cryptic Command, Flores was leaning toward Primal Command as well as the split card Spite // Malice.
"Primal Command was more of a 'two of' in its Standard heyday, which is about where I would put Silumgar's Command. Though Silumgar's Command is potentially powerful, at five mana you run the risk of getting stuck with too many in your hand early and getting run over. So unless something dramatically changes in how we play Standard, I don't think you can play too many," was his initial impression of the card.
We went on to discuss how, if you add up any two modes of the card—a bounce spell plus a Hero's Downfall, a Negate plus a Last Gasp—you are generally paying the total converted casting cost of those two spell equivalents or maybe even a little more than retail in the second example.
"However, this is counterbalanced by the built-in card advantage," added Flores. "We can stomach paying a little more for a card than 'it is worth' if we get some card advantage out of it; or if it offers extreme flexibility. That is where the Spite // Malice comparison comes in. Spite // Malice was a Standard-playable spell because it could directly answer any kind of threat—as long as that threat was not a black creature. Any time you are destroying a Planeswalker you are coming out way ahead here. Currently people pay 1BB—or for goodness's sake 2BW—to deal with Planeswalkers that have already resolved, so that mode plus anything else is just value."
Flores arrived on the decklist he played as a response to his experiences against grindy Abzan Control lists in the PPTQs that preceded his win.
"The main way that Abzan Control decks beat you is with burly Planeswalkers like Elspeth, Sun's Champion or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Obviously there are multiple ways where Silumgar's Command can interact with those kinds of threats/decks," said Flores about whether or not the card could find a home in the new Standard. "And in more than half the cases, while winning on mana—any time you use this card against a six-, seven-, or even eight-mana Planeswalker—you are ahead plus you get some other awesome action. In addition, you can get some non-intuitive angles against multiple Planeswalkers or Planeswalker-driven threats."
"Normally, control players have to think twice about Sorin, Solemn Visitor because even if they can deal with it, there is usually a Vampire hanging out—plus Pearl Lake Ancient decks can't beat Sorin's [-6] ability.) In Silumgar's Command we have a card that can both destroy Sorin and bounce the Vampire without any additional investment. Because a Vampire is a token, that secondary mode removes it permanently," concluded Flores about the new Command that he and other blue mages will have at their disposal in the new Standard.
Dragons of Tarkir Power Rankings: Week One
Each day on Twitter, since Preview Week began with a flurry of new cards from Dragons of Tarkir, I have been using my account to do an unofficial power ranking of which card is poised to make the biggest Constructed impact come the release of the new set and the impending Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir in Brussels. I hear rumors of a sweet card coming out on the same day as this article but apart from my card, revealed in this column, I don't have access to those…so put an asterisk on them and I will see where they fare next week, once the whole set is revealed.
#5 Zurgo Bellstriker
With all these fancy Dragons circling around Standard, something has to keep everyone in line and put the brakes on the durdling. One of things I simply adore about Magic is the way it can encompass eight-mana Planeswalkers and one-mana creatures in the same Standard format, and it's not always apparent which one you want to be playing. I'm looking forward to dashing this guy in, with a couple of Foundry Street Denizens getting whipped into a frenzy.
#4 (Blank) Command
I love both the blue Commands and expect to see both of them getting fired off in Standard right out of the gate, and Atarka's Command seems ready-made for Modern Zoo and Burn decks. I shudder to think what the remaining two will look like.
#3 Sidisi, Undead Vizier
It is not unreasonable to play five mana for a tutor effect that lets you put the card right into your hand, and that is exactly what you get if you have no creatures in play when you cast this and just sac it to itself. But if you look at the name for a moment and think about the current Standard format I am pretty sure you can come up with a recurring source of Zombie fodder to sacrifice to this. Or maybe we can get EVEN more value out of our Satyr Wayfinders.
#2 Radiant Purge
Dear sir or madam,
I would like your Siege Rhino to go away forever.
#1 Narset Transcendent
When this card was revealed midweek, it exploded my social network—and shot to the top of my power rankings immediately—with good reason. Sure there were the inevitable naysayers who lamented a good ability to protect herself with on the front side but have they seen that starting loyalty? The next place everyone went was to check the Oracle text on Temporal Trespass only to come away disappointed that you can't rebound into an extra, extra turn since the exile clause trumps that. (P.S., You can assuredly do this with Time Warp in Modern!)
It was pointed out that you can get a pseudo Time Warp by casting End Hostilities with Rebound since your opponent can't, in most cases, develop their board with creatures since they would just be sweeping them up a turn later when your bonus Hostilities resolves.
Of course the thing everyone wants to do with this card is just cast Treasure Cruise and bury their opponents in a sea of cards. If they don't get run over by a Zurgo Bellstriker before the game goes that long.
Feel free to share your power rankings with me on Twitter. I can be found as @Top8Games and will be doing a card-based power ranking next week as well from the full set, so feel free to chime in with your five favorite cards as the set continues to be unveiled.
February Player of the Month (#MTGPoM)
Speaking of Twitter, you can always interact with me on Twitter to talk about which player should be the Player of the Month using the #MTGPoM hashtag. This month is a steep battle for everyone not named Antonio Del Moral León, the Pro Tour Fate Reforged Champion.
Pro Tour Fate Reforged Champion Antonio Del Moral León
Antonio piloted his Modern Splinter Twin deck through the entire field at Pro Tour Fate Reforged to become the first ever Pro Tour Champion from Spain in the history of the game. He has locked up Platinum, a seat at the World Championship, and is currently poised to be the leader of the Spanish World Magic Cup team and would get a chance to compete for that title in his own country when the WMC comes to Barcelona. I'm not gonna lie to you. He's all but locked to be the Player of the Month if you can't make a compelling and widely held case for someone else. Use the hashtag and tell me who you think it should be. Do you think it should be Antonio Del Moral León? Chime in. Do you think any of February's GP Champions—Immanuel Gerschenson, Jack Fogle, or Dan Lanthier—deserve the honor? Tell me why! You want it to be someone else entirely? Then I want to know the whos and the whys!